Thursday, August 19, 2010

Dear God, please save "I" from "Stupid Me"

"I" have learned a hard lesson on social media: Don't disagree with your family's and friends' posted opinions.

It's THEIR soapbox. If you disagree, get on YOUR soapbox and post your dissenting opinion without singling them out. "I" know better.

"Stupid Me" doesn't.

"Stupid Me" rears his ugly head once in a while. It used to be when he'd had too much to drink, but he doesn't drink anymore. Now, it's when he's sleep-deprived. Or when he gets on too much of a roll with his snarky worldview. Or when he's jealous. Or when he needs attention. Or, those rare misguided moments when he thinks he's The Smartest Person in the Room.

Whatever the impetus was last night, "Stupid Me" usurped "I." A friend posted her opinion about the Stolen Valor Act (which made it illegal to embellish, or just pretend to have, a military background) being declared unconstitutional. A military wife, she disagreed with the ruling. Defender of free speech -- even when it's unpopular speech -- that I am, I disagreed with her.

Shut up, "I." Don't reply to her, "I." Post your opinion without referring to her, "I."

Sorry, "I" am not here right now. The role of "I" will be played tonight by "Stupid Me."

"Stupid Me" replied to her before going to bed. "I" woke up to find her having cut ties on social media -- and, presumably, ending a friendship that dates back almost 30 years.

"I" don't even have the words for how bad I feel tonight. You can make the "our friendship should be strong enough and long enough that it can withstand one disagreement" argument all you like. I tried that, along with a profuse apology. Silence.

Our friendship goes all the way back to high school. She has a now-adult daughter who's like a daughter to me. We were there for each other through significant ups and downs in our respective lives. I mattered so much to her that she used my name in the name of her only son. I love her as much as I have ever loved, and will ever love, anyone in my life.

Unless she accepts my apology and renews our friendship, that's all past. No more memories to make. All because "Stupid Me" was "I's" worst enemy once again.

Hadn't you done enough damage already, "Stupid Me"? "I" wouldn't even know where to begin with that.

Dear Charlene, please forgive me. "I" can never be sorry enough for "Stupid Me's" actions. I miss you. I love you.

And dear God, please save "I" from "Stupid Me." Again. Send "Stupid Me" straight to hell where he belongs. "I" could use a little heaven on Earth.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

First, Alvin Greene. Now, this.

Our "Democratic" candidate for the U.S. House admits he hijacked the party ticket to get on the November ballot without subscribing to any Democratic philosophies.

This guy is too far-right to even be considered a "blue dog Democrat." What an embarrassment!

Does the N.C. Democratic Party not have some system (background check? platform pledge?) to prevent this sort of thing? If not, will they have one in place for 2012 and beyond after this? And will they try to find a write-in candidate to counter the negative publicity and to have another option for voters who don't want to choose between "right" and "far right"?

First, Alvin Greene in South Carolina. Now, this. The Democratic Congressional and Senate Campaign Committees -- and the Democratic Party at the local, state and national levels -- have failed Democrat-affiliated and Democrat-leaning unaffiliated voters in both states.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Now it can be told

All of the handful of people who actually read this blog should have already known I'm alive, even though I haven't written anything here since November. Not particularly well, but alive.

There's a compelling story to be told in greater length someday, but the short version is that I'd put my life on hold since after Thanksgiving to be chauffeur, advocate and general jack-of-all-trades for my parents after Dad's health took a turn for the worse. He died in a Hospice facility on St. Patrick's Day. He was 5 1/2 months short of 80.

There's a compelling story to be told in greater length someday. But not today. For now, there's just this.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

"You are losing us"

I've heard the official NASCAR page on Facebook deletes fan comments that are, ah, too negative. So in case my comment in response to today's fustercluck at Talladega gets the gate, here's a copy they can't touch. :-)

I'm done watching this year. Hope y'all have your act together when the green flag drops at Daytona in February. This is the biggest debacle in U.S. auto racing since the tire mess that killed the F1 race in Indianapolis.

If I paid money to attend that debacle at Talladega, I'd DEMAND a refund. If I were a driver, I'd PARK my car next Sunday in protest -- Chase or no Chase.

I hope you're paying attention to all the complaints from drivers on TV, and from fans here and on Twitter. YOU ARE LOSING US!!!

Friday, October 9, 2009

The lost art of customer service

Mom wants to buy a couple of Nintendo Wiis as Christmas presents. And she wants to put them on layaway -- yes, some retailers still do that. But at her age, she can't get out much anymore.

So I told her I'd inquire about putting Wiis on layaway at the nearest retailer that offers it. My experience:

Waited at the customer service counter for what seemed like 10 minutes. They were busy with at least three prior customers, both in front of me and on the phone, but an acknowledgment of my presence (such as, "I'll be with you as soon as I can, sir. I'm sorry for the wait. Thanks for your patience!") would have been nice.

When it was finally my turn, I explained what my mom wanted and asked how I can go about doing that on her behalf. I was told that they were out of Wiis. And that they're not taking orders for them. And that it's up to me to find out when they come in, and it's first-come, first-serve from there.

So ...

You're not going to give me a rain check for them, nor let me pre-order them.

You're not going to take down my name and number, to call me when they come in. I have to call you three days a week -- since that's how often trucks show up with new merchandise -- to find out if any Wiis were even on the truck.

You're going to sell the Wiis to whoever buys them first. Meaning the buyers will likely be those who are fortunate enough to just happen to be in the store when the Wiis are restocked, rather than those who have been trying to get their hands on them maybe as far back as last Christmas.

Yeah. You know, just because demand exceeds supply doesn't justify poor customer service. So if we DO get Wiis, we're not getting them from YOUR STORE. 'Kthanksbye. ;-)

Now I'm not naming names -- *cough cough* KMART! *cough cough* -- but customer service seems to be a lost art no matter where you're the customer. I shouldn't have to fly first class, stay at a five-star hotel, or eat at a restaurant that requires a dinner jacket in order for you to treat me like you actually WANT my business! You don't have to bend over backward. Just treat me the way I would treat you: with common human decency.

And this particular store is within walking distance of the Domino's restaurant where two employees videotaped themselves doing disgusting things to customers' orders and posted it on YouTube. That restaurant closed two weeks ago, nearly six months after the video incident. A sharp drop-off in business after the incident was cited as the reason for the closing. You'd think this Kmart would have LEARNED something about customer service from the Domino's incident. Guess not.

The Wii experience, the Domino's incident, and the overall lost art of customer service were conversation fodder for me and my visiting cousin, after picking up her and her husband from the airport. She shared her own experience -- which is a much better way to wrap this up, since it's much funnier although it did permanently cost a restaurant chain two customers:

She and her husband were eating at a restaurant I won't name -- *cough cough* IHOP! *cough cough* -- when she ordered a breakfast item because it was supposed to come with warm walnut maple syrup. Said so right on the menu.

The order arrived. No warm walnut maple syrup.

She told the waitress what was supposed to come with her order, and was the deciding factor in her order. Said so right on the menu.

Waitress response: "Sometimes the menu lies."

The menu LIES??? Not, "I'm sorry, ma'am, let me go get you that"? Not, "We're out of warm walnut maple syrup, but let me bring you some other warm syrup"? Not, "I'm sorry, but we have no warm syrup of any kind. Can I get you something else?" And most importantly behind these "Nots," not "The customer is always right"? Just, "Sometimes the menu lies"?

Needless to say, cousin was not pleased. "I think I'd like to speak to your manager."

Waitress response: "Sure, just a minute. DAD!"


Friday, October 2, 2009

... And absolute power corrupts absolutely

So let me see if I've got this straight, David Letterman:

  • Admitted cheating on your wife and the mother of your children.
  • Played it for laughs.
  • Didn't apologize.
Got it.

I've been a fan of yours all the way back to your guest appearances on "The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson" and your short-lived daytime NBC show in the 1970s. But tonight, I think you lost that fan.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Sunday morning coming down

Our pastor returned to the pulpit Sunday after a multi-week trip to the Holy Land -- Israel, Egypt and the like. It influenced his sermon, from the story in Exodus 1 about the Israelites' oppression at the hands of the Egyptians. He spoke passionately about how we would rather live in what's comfortable than what's Christian, and about how at our lowest point, we are closer to God than ever -- if we will only cry out and reach out to Him.

Then came the moment of invitation. And while the band played, the pastor received news from a congregation member that would give his sermon that much more weight, and make this a moment of invitation like no other.

The pastor informed us that a nearby colleague -- the Rev. Dr. David Treadway, pastor of Sandy Ridge Baptist Church in Hickory, N.C. -- had committed suicide. There were audible gasps, tears and prayers. The majority filed out in stunned silence, as a few remained to talk and pray.

I've been deeply moved by this tragedy. Not only because I knew Dr. Treadway in passing, but because of selfish, negative, anti-Christian feelings I had about him even recently that are now replaced by guilt. And because I wrestle not only with what I'm supposed to take from this tragedy as a Christian, but with my own issues of depression and suicide -- particularly in the last two to three years, as my life has turned for the worse.

I barely slept. As soon as I awoke, I knew I had to write about this in the hope that it ministers to someone. Bear with me. This is going to be a long one.

As our marriage struggled, my wife stopped attending our church. Personal reasons involving a conflict between a church leader and a member of her family. We visited different churches, including Sandy Ridge. She and her parents had attended there previously when she was younger. She enjoyed it again, but ... I don't know, it just wasn't for me. I found their service too brief (1 hour), and I was still drawn to what had been our church.

After she left me in June 2008, she and our son returned to Sandy Ridge and I returned to "our church." I contacted Dr. Treadway by e-mail to let him know about our separation, that my wife and son were attending there, and to see if there was anything he could do for them.

Ultimately, I had an ulterior motive. I wanted Dr. Treadway to counsel my wife against getting a divorce. At the time, I thought I was doing what God had called me to do. That my marriage was a covenant of God which no one -- including me or my wife -- should put asunder.

Dr. Treadway said my wife and son would have to reach out to him, rather than the other way around. And I've since come to realize that it wasn't God's will, but my will that I wanted done. Because I harbored ill will toward Dr. Treadway and his church for not fighting for our marriage.

Even recently, driving home from a visit with my son, I passed the church and spoke disparagingly of it. I think I even held up the Bible in my passenger seat. I'm surprised now that God didn't go Old Testament on me, and set fire to the Bible to burn me in conviction.

For all the selfish, negative, anti-Christian ill will I held toward Dr. Treadway and his church, I never would have wished this on him, his family and his congregation. I will not be able to attend the memorial service, scheduled for Tuesday at 5 p.m. at the church, but I'm planning to pay my respects at the funeral, scheduled for Wednesday at 2 p.m., also at the church. And if mourners are offered the chance to speak, I will confess my sin to his family and his congregation, and ask for their forgiveness.

But more importantly, this needs to be about what can be done to help his family and his congregation. As well as others ravaged by depression to the point of suicide. Everything happens for a reason under God. He wants us to turn this tragedy into a teaching moment.

There is still a stigma about depression and suicide in the South and in the Christian community. Most people do not understand depression, so they think it's something you can just "snap out of." And suicide remains the "dirty little secret" that people like to sweep under the rug, not talk about and consider a sin.

I've had depression probably my entire life, but have only come to acknowledge and treat it in the past five years with my former wife's help. As for suicide, family members have attempted it (including my mother), and I've sunk to the brink of it more than once. The last two to three years have proved particularly challenging, as my 20-year newspaper career and 10-year marriage simultaneously ended, as I became only a part-time dad to my son and as I continue to struggle not only with that, but with unemployment, financial ruin, foreclosure and the divorce I never wanted.

I also have a friend who has attempted suicide twice and stands on the brink of it still, ravaged by mental and physical health issues (bipolar disorder, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia). And all I can do is watch from afar and pray that she'll get the help she needs that is beyond what I, her friends and her family can offer; and that she'll turn back to the God she has renounced.

Our local newspapers, law enforcement and funeral homes contribute to the aforementioned stigma by not reporting suicides. I guarantee when Dr. Treadway's obituary is published, neither the newspapers nor the funeral home will report HOW he died.

If we're not talking about suicide, then we're also not talking about what can LEAD to suicide. And we need to, desperately.

A newspaper column by another area pastor, reflecting on the suicide of his brother, was a step in the right direction. Our area pastors, regardless of denomination, can take another step by making Dr. Treadway's death a teaching moment. Show up en masse at his memorial service and funeral. Offer to help his church move forward from this tragedy. Talk about Dr. Treadway to your own congregations, sharing what God's trying to teach us from this.

I wish Dr. Treadway had reached out to this pastor touched by suicide. I wish he had reached out to my pastor. I wished he had reached out to me. It's too late to save him now. But maybe someone else's potential tragedy can be turned into triumph through his story.

I know how alone and desperate you can feel when you are overwhelmed by depression. If depression comes into your life, please do not keep it to yourself.

If you're on the brink of suicide, you can:
  • Call the national suicide hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
  • If you're in Catawba County like me, call the mobile crisis unit at (828) 695-5900.
  • Or, call 911 and let the dispatcher know you're having a mental health crisis. You will be connected to those who can help you.
You also always have a connection with Jesus Christ. Turn to Him, not from Him. He has not, nor will He ever, forsake you.

Some verses to carry you this include Hebrews 3:13-14, James 1:2-5, James 1:12, Matthew 28:20, and Psalms 91:14-16. You can find the version that suits you at

We discussed these verses Sunday night at a prayer service, then several of us drove to Dr. Treadway's church, laid hands on it and prayed for his family and congregation while repeating these verses. But it still doesn't feel like nearly enough.

Whatever you're going through, please know that you can talk to me about it. My contact information is on this blog. Get in touch any time. We'll get through it together.

If you can save yourself, or someone else, from the loneliness and desperation that overwhelmed Dr. Treadway, then his death was not in vain. That, I think, is the teaching moment.